The Bridges of Silberstrasse to Get a Makeover

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Three bridges to go “under the knife” beginning in March. One of them is scheduled to be removed. Fourth one may follow pending on approval. Projects to end by December.

ZWICKAU/ WILKAU-HASSLAU/ SILBERSTRASSE, GERMANY- Travellers going to the Ore Mountains from Zwickau will have to consider alternatives to travelling- at least by car- in the next nine months. Beginning in March, the main Highway B93 from Zwickau to Schneeberg will have two bridges be rehabilitated. A third one nearby is scheduled to be demolished after being abandoned for decades. A project involving the fourth one may be underway soon, pending on approval. All four have been in service for over a century and have historic significance. To determine which ones, here are the details.

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Highway B 93 Bahnhofsbrücke- A one-span arch bridge with a length of 80 meters, this bridge spans the rail tracks of the Zwickau-Aue line, 30 meters south of the train station, Silberstrasse. It is the main artery going through the village as the highway connects Wilkau-Hasslau with Wiesenburg for thousands of cars use this bridge in both directions daily. It is also the primary crossing for local busses. As part of the plan to widen the highway, the decking will be replaced with a new, widen one, but not before the stone arch is strengthened. It is hoped that an additional lane is built as the highway makes a sharp, uphill curve to the right, which is dangerous even for truckers. If not, at least the curve can be straightened out. Pedestrians can still use the bridge during the rehabilitation project but access will be restricted.

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Heubrücke– Located 100 meters south of the Bahnhofsbrücke is another arch structure made of stone. The 90 meter span is over 150 years old but has been closed to traffic for decades- to pedestrians a few years ago. For safety reasons and because of its uselessness, the local town council is looking into tearing down the span and not replacing it. No replacement structure is expected here. What’s holding the council back is the funding for the bridge removal, which is expected to be approved at the time of the rehab project.

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Muldenbrücke in Wilkau-Hasslau- The rehab of the B93 bridge may be more of a blessing for the eight-span Luten arch bridge spanning the Zwickau Mulde. The 1867 span connects B93 on the east end with the town center on the right, carrying the road going to Cunnersdorf and Kirchberg. Inspections revealed moisture going into the arches and damage to the decking and the arches. Because the arches are still useable, the bridge will not be torn down. Instead the arches will be repaired and new decking will replace the old one. New lighting will replace those from 40 years ago. The bridge is a major sticking point for many cars have to wait on the structure because of the traffic light on the east end, where the main highway is located. Yet the bridge has connected both sides of Wilkau-Hasslau for almost 150 years and the rehab project will be a first where this key connection will be lost- at least for drivers.

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Cainsdorf Bridge- The wild card in the project is the Cainsdorf Bridge, a two-span steel girder bridge spanning the Zwickau Mulde between the rail line and Highway B93. The 1929 bridge was scheduled to be replaced last year but the details of the replacement span and the costs for the variants have still yet to be determined. It is hoped that the plans can be finalized this year and the project can proceed. Most of the variants point to the historic bridge being reused for bikes and pedestrians.

According to the Free Press, the B 93 will be open to local traffic only, which will help businesses affected by the projects- in particular, in Wilkau-Hasslau as there are many eateries and supermarkets along the highway.  Yet for those wishing to go to Schneeberg and all points in the Ore Mountains, there are detours available which will relieve the stretch of all inner-city traffic for much of the time of the project. Here are the alternatives:

  1. At the traffic light before the Schedewitz Bridge, turn right onto Bahnstrasse. Follow it to Lengenfelder Strasse and turn left. Follow Lengenfelder Strasse through Schedewitz and Planitz until it joins state highway 293, the bypass that goes around Zwickau and connects Werdau with Schneeberg and Lengenfeld/Schneeberg. Take the route going to the latter and follow that to the Motorway 72 exit Zwickau-West. Continue straight on the bypass, which passes Kirchberg and other villages before it joins B93 just north of Schneeberg.
  2. At the traffic light before the Schedewitz Bridge, go straight and cross the bridge. At the next traffic light, the road makes a curve to the left. Stay on that road and continue, going past Reinsdorf. At the Motorway 72, turn left and take the route going to Hof. Continue for 13 km until exiting at Zwickau West. At the traffic light, turn right and continue on the bypass which passes Kirchberg and joins B93 north of Schneeberg.
  3. At the traffic light before the Schedewitz Bridge, go straight and cross the bridge. At the next traffic light, the road makes a curve to the left. Stay on that road and continue, going past Reinsdorf and the Motorway (72) exit, Zwickau-Ost. You will drive through Wildenfels before entering Hartenstein. There, turn right and follow the street to Burg Stein (Stein Castle), before taking the road to Wildbach. That road cuts through vast forests before it enters Schneeberg from the east.

 

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When using the detours, there will be a high risk of traffic jams and other congestion because of the high volume of regular traffic that uses these routes. Each one will add at least 30 kilometers and 30 minutes to your estimated travel time.

There will be no changes in rail plans, but delays are expected as the two-track line at Silberstrasse will be reduced to one during the project. Travelers will need to plan ahead and be patient.

The Chronicles will keep you posted on the latest developments. Information on the Muldenbrücke at Wilkau-Hasslau and the Cainsdorf Bridge south of Zwickau can be found in the tour guide on Zwickau’s bridges, which you can access here.

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Out with the Old and In with the New

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The Cable-Stayed Bridge (left) and the 1954 Communist-era concrete slab bridge (right) standing side-by-side. Come June of this year, there will only be one crossing the Zwickau Mulde. Photos taken in February 2020

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Communist-style old bridge to be torn down, road to be realigned to new span. Cable-stayed bridge to open to traffic by the end of May.

SCHLUNZIG/ GLAUCHAU/ ZWICKAU, GERMANY- Commuters driving between Glauchau and Zwickau will have one less route to take for the next quarter of the year. The Schlunzig Bridge, spanning the River Zwickau Mulde, along with the road connecting Schlunzig and the Volkswagen Company in Mosel will be closed down beginning Monday. The 1954 bridge will be torn down, while the road and the approaches will be realigned to the new cable-stayed bridge. The electrical and water mains will also be rerouted to the cable-stayed bridge prior to the old bridge’s removal.  According to the Chemnitz Free Press, the demolition and road realignment project is expected to last through May.

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Construction on the new bridge began in 2017 and it came in response to the inspection report on the (now) 66-year old bridge that revealed grave deficiencies that made rehabilitating the bridge impracticle. The bridge sustained severe damage in the 2013 floods resulting in the limitation of the speed limit to 30 km/h. Originally scheduled to open last spring, the construction on the cable-stayed bridge was slowed due to weather as well as the delay in the shipment of cables originating from Spain. The cables were spun and the stayed cables were completed in December.

The old bridge was built in response to the Great Flood of 1954, where 80% of the crossings along the Zwickau Mulde were destroyed. Its predecessor was one of them- a polygonal Warren through truss bridge with curved lattice strut and portal bracings, plus deck truss approach spans. It had originally carried a 6-gauge railroad connecting Mosel with Thum, located 3 km east of Schlunzig. The structure was a pre-fabricated concrete slab bridge whose piers had a semi-triangular shape, typical of Communist-era bridges built prior to 1989.

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During the time of the bridge’s demolition and the preparation for the opening of the cable-stayed bridge, commuters will have the choice of using the Motorway 4 to Meerane and then Highway B93 to Zwickau or the B175 from Glauchau to Mosel via Niederschindmaas before joining the B93 at the Volkswagen Company exit.

Come time of the grand opening of the Schlunzig Cable-Stayed Bridge at the end of May, weather permitting, the Zwickau Mulde will have another suspension bridge added to the list of bridges of its type. The river in known to have over a dozen suspension and cantilever bridges- both past and present between Zwickau and Wurzen, including the Paradiesbrücke, the suspension bridge at Rochsburg, two suspension bridges at Rochlitz, the cantilever pedestrian span at Lunzenau and the suspension bridge in Grimma. With the new cable-stayed bridge at Schlunzig, it will attract more tourists, photographers and bridge enthusiasts to not only the village itself, but also to the region Glauchau-Zwickau as well as the along the river. A big plus for the region.

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 74

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The next pic of the week takes us to London. At about this time of year, the English capital on the Thames is famous for its fog that covers not only the areas along the main river, the Thames, but also the city’s Communist-era high-rise buildings, dating back to the 1960s. This was the case with this scene with the Paradiesbrücke. These pair of photos were taken last week during a fog spell that is typical of London. The fog was thick enough that it covered much of the background landscape, including the Communist-era buildings that were only 150 meters away as seen in the pic below. The end result was bringing the bridge to the foreground but having the black and white features of a structure sitting in pea stew. As a bonus, the oblique angle view of the bridge in the picture above makes the scene rather mysterious. One could make a story out of the two scenes, be it a murder mystery or romance.

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Oh by the way: Did I forget to tell you the pictures were taken not in London but in Zwickau? In Saxony? In Germany? On the River Mulde? 😉

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Mystery Bridge Nr. 122: A Through Truss Bridge deep in the Erzgebirge

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Returning to the Erzgebirge we have a large crossing spanning the River Zwickau for a mystery bridge. Located near the village of Langenweissbach, this structure is a Warren through truss bridge with riveted connections, approximately 30-40 meters long and 4 meters wide. It carries Werkstrasse going through a series of buildings which appeared to have been either a former factory or a town before it was abandoned. The company that had existed closest to the bridge was Tarsan GmbH (Limited), but the firm closed down some years ago.

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Werkstrasse used to be a thoroughfare before the railroad crossing shut down. The street and its branch is now a dead end. Only one building next to the bridge is still occupied, which means the street is rarely used except for private purposes. Given the rust on the bottom chord and parts of the upper half of the superstructure, this bridge dates back to a time between 1910 and 1950, although given its remote location, it may have been spared the bombing. The structure is still used but with weight and height restrictions.

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This leads to the question of the following:

  1. What’s the history behind the buildings along Werkstrasse: Was it a factory, a town or a combination of a few? Could it be a military camp of some kind?
  2. What’s the history behind the bridge? Was there a previous structure before this one?
  3. What’s the history behind the street the bridge crosses?

Any ideas, we’re all ears, regardless of language. So, “Hau rein!” 🙂

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Langenweissbach is located between Zwickau and Aue-Schlema. First mentioned in the history books in the 12th century, the town merged with Weisbach and Grünau in 1996 and later became part of Langenbach. More on its history here.

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 45

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To tie in the full moon with spring time, here’s a skyline shot of the city of Aue at the time of the Supermoon, taken last month. In the foreground is the Schiller Bridge and the moon shines directly onto the Zwickau Mulde River. The Erzgebirge version of Venice is located at the junction of that and the Schwarzwasser River and has a history of bridge building that goes back two centuries. Have a look at the tour guide here. The photo was taken from the Viaduct which spans the river and the tracks of the Aue-Zwickau line which branches off into one going to Johanngeorgenstadt and another to Chemnitz. That viaduct is scheduled to be rehabbed beginning this May.

The Chronicles would like to wish you and yours a Happy Easter. Enjoy the beautiful weather, wherever you are. ❤ 😀

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BHC Pic of the Week Nr. 42

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Looks can be deceiving in this pic of the week. At first glance one sees a bridge with a tower. From an oblique angle like this and directly in the sun, one can be fooled easily. However, we have two bridges. In the foreground is a 60+ year old bridge that is a concrete beam bridge. The H-shaped tower belongs to the new, replacement bridge in the background.  Since the Summer 2017, work has been progressing on the replacement bridge that will feature a cable-stayed span with one tower. When completed by the end of July of this year, it will be the third bridge of its kind, which has one tower, regardless of what bridge type (cantilever truss, suspension, cable-stayed), and eighth suspension-style bridge along the Zwickau Mulde, including a small section of the Mulde going from Sermuth to Grimma. The total length will be 220 meters, 40 meters longer than its current span, and it will be 5 meters higher.

The current structure, which was built in 1954 to replace a crossing destroyed in the Great Flood, will be torn down afterwards. This bridge is located between Schlunzig and Mosel and provides key access to the Volkswagen Company, which is three kilometers away. The road serves as a backroad between Glauchau and Zwickau.

Enjoy a great sunny weekend, wherever you are! 🙂

 

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Tearing down the Bockau Arch Bridge: Lessons Learned from the Loss

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I would like to start off this entry with this quote: If my uncle was rich and had a couple million dollars, enough to purchase and restore the historic bridge at the Rechenhaus, the Saxony Ministry of Transportation (LASUV) would double and even triple the price to make that purchase impossible. My uncle owns an arena football team in Texas known as the Jackalopes and has made a profit ever since taking ownership a couple decades ago. Like the states’ residents, the state of Texas takes pride in its historic bridges through policies and practice. One in three historic bridges have either been restored for reuse or bypassed by a concrete bridge with half of those having been restored at a later time. Whether my uncle would have tolerated LASUV’s price-jacking in an attempt to keep the bridge for the demolition crews would have been questionable, for Texas has one of the toughest legal systems that makes libel and fraud a crime punishable with prison. Having lived there for over four of his six decades of life, he has dealt with and used these laws wisely. In either case, the stench of libel and kickbacks would have set him off as much as our group, the Friends of the Bockau Arch Bridge, as well as locals who have followed us and expressed anger over this mishap.

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As of this entry, LASUV had it its way and our 150-year old stone arch bridge is no more. We had our send off on Tuesday of last week with a documentary by German public TV channel MDR. The next day, on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon, the last of the four main arches was downed by the digger. Filming the scene with my camera, I had a difficult time trying to comprehending what had just happened. A mix of anger, sadness, confusion, perplexity and just being lost in translation flowed through me and it would be a small photo tour of the historic bridges in Zwickau and Glauchau that helped me regain my composure and find some lessons behind this debacle.

The whole theme behind this demolition was the fact that we had no chance. LASUV wanted it gone because no two bridges should be allowed to stand side-by-side, a concept that exists in many places due to policies and practice, like in Texas. The agency was determined to see the structure gone and was diligent enough to repel those interested in the bridge for reuse as a pedestrian and bike bridge. And despite attempts to bring the issue to the table, none of the communities wanted it- neither Zschorlau nor Bockau, where the old bridge used to cross, nor any of the communities in the Ore Mountain District (in German: Erzgebirgskreis), from Aue to Schwarzenberg. Even with the smallest of amount to purchase, all of them considered the bridge a liability even though the arch bridge was still structurally sound. All of them said: “We have the future generations to worry about.” In other words, Smartphone gaming and malls trump history and outdoor recreation.  I myself was about to turn to the people in Glauchau, in the Zwickau district for help. After all, they are rebuilding their own arch bridge in the Hirschgrund at the Castle Complex and they would probably have had some ideas of their own.  That idea vanished with every drill of the digger. And lastly, the state parliament in Dresden turned down our petition to save the bridge, days after the last arch of the bridge was gone.

And to put the icing on the cake, because of the lack of will to even talk about reusing the old bridge, the Rechenhausbrücke is the first bridge ever to be used as bait for a replacement project despite its historic status! That means when building a replacement on a new alignment, one has the option to demolish the historic structure even if it is a historic landmark. This practice is common in the USA for national historic landmarks, which make the laws very weak and forces locals to jump in to save the structure with their own funds, even though as a national landmark, grants and other financial incentives are available for restoring historic bridges. For Saxony, the only incentive to save and restore the Rechenhausbrücke is if an uncle has a couple million Euros to purchase it and even then, there’s no guarantee that the purchase will happen.

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So what can we learn from this experience to pass onto our future preservation groups? After all, there are other historic bridges that are under the loop for replacement and from this experience, no bridge that is protected by cultural heritage laws is safe when it comes to progress. It’s easy to point fingers, but it’s more sensible to learn some lessons for the next project even though they are rather tough to achieve. From my personal perspective, here are some items to keep in mind for those who have a historic bridge that is worth saving and repurposing for other use:

1. Start as early as possible. If you learn of a project to replace the bridge you want to keep, you have to begin as early as you can. The window of opportunity will close quicker than you think. This was probably one of the painful reasons we lost our bridge. We just could not keep up with LASUV and the politicians who wanted to turn a blind eye at any cost (and did so).

2. Get actively involved in the discussions. Do not stand on the sidelines nor allow others to influence you. We had voices but need more of them to bring the issue to a head. Not to mention a couple trips to Dresden to get some politicians on our side.

3. Create an organization to save the bridge. This one we did a bit too late but we gained some traction in the process. Your organization should have some people with deep pockets full of money and resources as well as a will to share your interest and help. This one we lacked a great deal but part of that was LASUV’s unfair hat trick.

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4. Have some capital with you if you want to (fight to) own the bridge. Despite the T-shirt idea, fundraising should be done once you create your group. However, that requires a lot of time and effort to achieve your goal. What is needed is money right away from sources that are willing to help you. Even grants and financial support from the private sector helps a great deal. That one we didn’t have in the end, even if we had the 1.7 million Euros LASUV offered.  By the way, the T-shirts are still selling. If interested in a memorabilia, click here.

5. Know your friends and the ways to repel your enemies. This one we learned the hard way for our organization did form a nucleus of friends, many of us will remain in contact. Yet we didn’t know who our friends from outside were. Especially at the April 2018 at the bridge, where despite the invitation to many members of three ministries and several parties, many of them were either clueless about the situation of the bridge or showed no interest in saving it. The latter was very obvious with a “behind closed door” meeting that occurred after our meeting between the head of the petition committee and the two mayors of the communities which the old bridge connected- two opponents of keeping the bridge.

6. Involve the parties at every meeting, including the media. This one we did a great job of, especially with Heike Mann at the Chemnitz Free Press, Aue Office, plus people at MDR-TV based in Leipzig-Halle and the Leipzig Glocal via Chronicles. Being a journalist on the side, it is difficult getting the information needed to write a great story on it. What I found disturbing was their exclusion from the meeting in April where they all waited about 50 meters away while we had a great debate going. Fortunately, I played Terry Bradshaw of the Pittsburgh Steelers and bootlegged a story out of it as I could do it in English. Normally one’s head could get ripped off for that. However, we did forge great ties with our media correspondences and they were able to get it done objectively, which helps when they are involved in every phase of the project.

7. Know the preservation laws, the options in saving the historic places and the loopholes involved. I did some research on German preservation laws for a presentation in 2010 and compared them with the National Historic Preservation Laws in the US. Both have one common denominator involved: They are flawed! When you know them early enough, you can come up with a strategy to fill in the holes. Make sure every exit is covered and no wide receiver is open before the quarterback throws the ball.

8. If you are ready to buy the bridge, know your responsibilities. It’s like owning a car: your car, your responsibilities. If anything happens, make sure you have enough capital to fix the problem. I believe we had enough money to buy the bridge, yet the need to maintain and perhaps rehabilitate the bridge, would require help from outside, which was impossible to get, in the end.

9. If they argue for demolition, make sure they have clear cut evidence. Also with the historical documentations. This was one that irked us the most. The process from replacing the bridge to offering the old bridge to a third party lacked transparency and evidence to justify the reasoning behind the actions carried out.  We wanted to document the bridge before it was demolished. According to LASUV, it was documented, but there was no hard evidence. We wanted reasons behind the cost for rehabilitating the old bridge compared to demolishing it after the new one opened. We received numbers that were arbitrary and lacked evidence behind the facts and figures. The petition was supposed to be discussed in parliament- it was after the demolition had started! The arguments for demolition lacked hard and sufficient evidence to justify the claims. If you are not sure about them, ask them and have them provide you with evidence. Then compare with other projects to see if they are standard or fixed to their advantage. Chances are the claims against your arguments are flawed. Be empirical about the claims.

10. Involve the public- hold a referendum! This was never held although if it had, the outcome would have been different. There were no reasons behind not having held it except for the mayors to save their faces, which they have lost along with the bridge. Yet while they will certainly be voted out in the mayoral elections later on this year, you can force your city officials to hold a referendum. Petitions, active involvement, constant phone calls, that’s all they are needed to get the city officials to carry it out, even if it takes a lot of effort.

And lastly, know if you are in the right and fight for it! In the end, we knew we were in the right when we saw several flaws in the whole bridge replacement process. We saw the lack of flexibility and ability to compromise. We saw the lack of interest and will in saving the bridge and helping the group achieve the goal. And lastly, we saw the lack of enthusiasm that is needed for saving a piece of history and heritage. After all, a bridge is a bridge, but if it has history, unique design and character, it does have a chance to be saved.

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I’d like to end this entry with a quote by Sharad Vivek Sagar that best fits the ending of a tragedy of this story: “For too long, information, opportunities, and resources have been constraints, they need to be the bridges.”  We have been limited by the color of money, the lack of information on the laws protecting historic places, the lack of will to cooperate and compromise and the inflexibility, all in the name of progress and power. Learning the lessons the hardest way possible, we need to take these  and teach the next groups about the importance of our heritage and ways to protect them. In an ever-changing environment where everything is being modernized, preserving what is left of our history is of paramount of importance so that we can learn about our region and our heritage. It’s for the sake of future generations. Otherwise what do we have to teach our children?

 

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